I had a revelation about the concept of objectification today. I've long been critical of the concept, because it seems to imply that viewing a person as the object of one's sexual desires is bad somehow, when in reality it's a natural and unavoidable aspect of human sexuality. I've always maintained (and still do) that viewing someone as a sex object does NOT preclude you from viewing them as a human being ALSO, whether sequentially (as in, during sex vs. before and after sex) or even simultaneously (in other words, it's not always either sex object or human being; it can also be sex object and human being).
Because honestly, how many people (and yes, I'm sure there are a few) are so focused on their sexual desires that they ACTUALLY treat people like sex objects and not human beings? I understand that it probably happens in limited instances, like when a man whistles at a woman walking down the street - he's treating her like a sex object, and not a human being, else he'd probably behave more politely. But even in these instances, it's a limited situation, and the moment passes and the man doing the "objectifying" has not so completely forgotten the humanity of the woman he's whistling at that he'd suddenly walk over to her and rape her. (It may be the case that a lot of women fear this, but the truth is that most of these situations do NOT end in rape).
Anyway, I've also maintained that there are polite and impolite ways to express one's sexuality - and that extends to objectification. Whistling at a woman may be impolite, whereas keeping your thoughts to yourself (while still allowing yourself to have them) might be more polite. On the other hand, maybe some women don't mind being whistled at, or even view it as a compliment. These things can be subjective, and much conflict in the world arises simply from misunderstandings and differences in cultural (and subcultural) behaviors.
But today I got to thinking. I look at lots of pictures of girls on the internet, and interact with very few of them in real life. This is only because I was born with a very low aptitude for social interaction. But I realized that I look at pictures because it gives me an opportunity to get up close and admire girls, without having to endure interacting with them, and/or risk rejection (either because they're not interested in hanging out with me, or else they think it's rude or creepy to stare from afar). Because I'm not a social butterfly, and even in social situations, I'm very quiet and don't talk much. I like looking, but not talking, though I realize that sort of behavior probably makes most people uncomfortable. And so I do my looking online, where the object of my gaze can't tell I'm looking, and doesn't have the opportunity to feel uncomfortable. I'm doing them a favor, really.
Of course, I'd like to interact with girls more in real life, but I'd have to get over my own limitations as a socialite first. But it occurs to me that by avoiding interacting with girls, and enabling myself to admire them indirectly online, I may actually be contributing to their objectification. When you look at a picture, you don't really have an opportunity to engage with the person in it (unless he/she is the one showing it to you). You look at her, rate her physical attractiveness, and move on. Now I don't know if this necessarily means you're training yourself to look at people as sex objects without thinking about them as humans, but that certainly seems to be what's occurring when you look at pictures disconnectedly online.
Now I still believe there's nothing inherently wrong with this. As an erotic model myself, I certainly wouldn't want to take the time to get to know every person who finds me attractive. And I wouldn't want to deny any person the opportunity of admiring my erotic beauty just because they haven't had the opportunity to get to know me first. But, were the opportunity available (and my confidence not lacking), I would absolutely interact with the girls in the pictures I see online more as people.
One of the things I long for is to find one of these hot girls that turns up in pictures, in an environment where I can actually get to know her as a person. But on social networking sites where this is possible, it's frequently the case that girls are all uptight about people looking at their pictures that way, and there's this cultural expectation of creepiness when you start paying attention to someone online because they're attractive (commonly referred to as "stalking"). And even if you do it politely, to separate yourself from the real creeps and stalkers, there's still that fear in the back of your mind, "should I be doing this?" And so to avoid any misunderstandings (and the potential complications that could arise), I actually go out of my way to avoid interacting with the girls in the pictures I view online, in the rare case that they're not completely anonymous (which I think the vast majority of them are). And that feeds into my tendency toward social reclusion; certainly, it doesn't help me learn how to interact with girls.
I don't know that there's a point or a moral or a solution to be uncovered in this discussion. But it's certainly worth thinking about. It troubles me that I might be objectifying girls, but not because I think there's anything wrong with viewing them as objects of my sexual desire. It's only because I don't feel like there's enough of a balance between that and actually getting to know them as people. But it's not because I don't WANT to get to know them as people, that I don't WANT to view them as anything other than human beings, or that I get some sort of thrill out of intentionally denying their humanity and treating them like they have no worth BEYOND their sexual appeal (except maybe in some of my harmless fantasies). For me, it's a matter of unfortunate circumstance.
But maybe that's a good reason for me to try to work harder to tip that balance. I realize now that I probably don't have many girls in my actual life (including girls that like me and respect me and beg for me to take their picture) because I never spend any time talking to girls, or getting to know them. As much as I might grovel at the feet of a goddess, she'd probably be more flattered if I actually took an interest in her life and her hobbies - a sincere interest, not one that's forced, with the expectation of a sexy return.
And when I think about it, I talk a lot about treating people as sex objects AND human beings. But perhaps I don't spend enough time actually practicing that, especially the part about treating someone you're sexually attracted to as a fully-rounded human being. Though again, for me, it's not that I don't want or wouldn't like to, it's that my nature puts me at a disadvantage from interacting with people socially in general (whether I'm sexually attracted to them or not).